Updated: May 25, 2021
8 reasons why you shouldn’t correct other people’s pronunciation, grammar or language mistakes, when they have not asked you to:
1- it creates an unnecessary power dynamic:
Correcting people when they have not asked for creates a power dynamic where the native speakers are always ‘’those who correct’’ and those who are speaking their second language are ‘‘those who need to be corrected’’. Unless you are in a language class, unsolicited corrections can communicate an air of superiority; it assumes the advice-giver knows what’s right for the other one.
2- It can create a form of ‘’othering’’:
We don't often correct people who speak their first language because they speak it ‘’right’’. Because of that, correcting could be excluding and perceived as ‘’othering’’. ‘’You are different because you speak differently’’.
3- it might be a one-time thing for you, but not for them:
People who speak their second language, or speak with a different accent get discriminated against because of their accent, first language or choice of words. Being corrected is a situation which they are confronted with all the time, even though they didn't ask for it.
4- language is dynamic, there is no such thing as the „right“ accent:
Language is dynamic. It means that it changes all the time. People in different regions speak with different accents. There are no such things as ‘’wrong accents’’. So why should we insist on other people talking with the accent we want them to?
5 - unsolicited advice can violate other people’s boundaries:
Even when it's meant nicely, giving people advice when they have not asked for it means not respecting the other person's decision. If there really is any advice that you think the other person should hear, consider asking first (and not in the middle of the conversation): “Can I give you some advice on this? Since you want to improve your language skills, do you want me to correct your pronunciations or texts sometimes? Although I understand everything you wrote/said, I have noticed some small grammatical mistakes, do you want me to correct or explain them?”
6 - Correcting peoples’ over and over again can be frustrating and discouraging:
It takes a lot of courage to navigate life and speak in an environment that mostly uses a language other than your first one. Being corrected over and over again could result in frustration and discouragement.
7 - Interrupting someone when their speaking is just rude:
Native speakers correct non-natives often in the middle of their sentences. It makes the other person over anxious about the way they are speaking and it is just really rude.
8 - Correcting someone could mean not paying attention to the content enough:
This could mean not taking the content of the conversation and the person serious enough and that keeping a certain form is way more important than the content which is being shared. Remember: Language is not the goal but the tool for communication.